The 9 life-changing habits your doctor wishes you would adopt when you turn 40

BEFORE  we know it, midlife is upon us – and words like “crisis” and “spread” take on a whole new meaning.

You may have got stuck in a rut, with some bad habits creeping in, but that doesn’t mean it’s “all downhill from here”.

A few laughter lines and extra pounds that seem impossible to shift are just evidence of a life well lived – and there are lots of easy changes you can make to ensure the only way is up.

“It’s never too late to change,” This Morning GP Dr Philippa Kaye tells Fabulous. “Adopting a few healthy habits when you reach middle age could add years to your life.”

Here, Dr Kaye and a panel of experts share their top tips.

1) GET YOUR EYES TESTED: As we get older, the risk of eye diseases such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma increases.

Eye surgeon Elizabeth Hawkes says: “It’s really important to book to see an optometrist once a year if you have a family history of eye problems, and every two years if not.

Many of these eye diseases don’t have symptoms in the early stages and treatment options are better if they are caught early.”

And it’s not just your eyesight that’s on the line, Elizabeth reveals. “

An eye check can also detect diabetes, hypertension, autoimmune conditions and certain cancers – often before you experience any symptoms.”

2) HAVE SEX: Typically, our sex lives can go off the boil as we get older and life gets in the way. But, for the sake of your health, have more sex!

“Just one orgasm a week is enough to provide huge mental-health benefits,” says sex and relationships expert Kate Taylor.

“Plus, climaxes work to improve the health of men and women’s bits, stop vaginal dryness that can happen as you age, help lower blood pressure and levels of stress hormone cortisol, and work to regulate hormones.

"Once a week is fine – with a partner is best, as it releases the bonding hormone oxytocin, but solo sex is good for you, too.”

3) TAKE TIME TO RELAX: While the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51, according to the NHS many will start to notice symptoms years beforehand.

These include menstrual changes, acne, low libido, hair loss, fatigue and mood swings.

Hormone expert Dr Martin Kinsella says taking a time-out to relax can help. “In order to keep your hormones balanced, it’s important to try to reduce stress levels,” he says.

“Getting into the habit of making time for yourself every day – whether that’s with a relaxing bath, five minutes of meditation or going for a walk – can aid hormone balance and overall health.”

4) SLEEP APART: “As we age, most people achieve less slow-wave sleep – the restorative sleep that helps you to wake up feeling rested,” explains sleep expert Neil Stanley.

“It’s often around the age of 40 that things start to go wrong.” One of the most effective things to combat it? “Sleep in separate bedrooms a few nights a week,” says Neil.

“My research has shown that sleep can often be disturbed because of your bed partner, and if you share a standard UK-size double bed, you probably have even less space than a child.

"Sleeping solo could dramatically improve the quality of your sleep – and may even improve your relationship if you’re less tired and not bickering about a lack of sleep during the day.”

Neil also recommends limiting alcohol and avoiding eating for at least three hours before going to bed.

5) CULL TOXIC FRIENDS: “The people you surround yourself with reflect who you are,” explains psychologist Emma Kenny.

“When you reach your fifth decade, think about who is good for you in your life.

"In your younger years it can be hard to say no, but as you get older, you don’t want negative people hanging around you, and you should have more confidence to be honest about who you want to spend time with.

"If you have people who make sly comments on your Instagram posts, unfriend them. You will have more positive energy if you have positive people around you.”

6) DO KEGEL EXERCISES: Around two-thirds of women over 40 suffer from incontinence,* but it doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of ageing, explains Dr Shirin Lakhani, founder of Elite Aesthetics. “Lots of things – such as childbirth, constipation, straining, menopause and being overweight – put pressure on the pelvic floor as we age,” she explains.

The good news is that daily exercise can help. “Lie down or sit in a comfortable position,” says Dr Lakhani. “Contract your pelvic-floor muscles for 3-6 seconds while breathing out.

"When you breathe in again, release the contraction. Relax all the muscles completely and repeat. Do this 10 times per session and two to three sessions a day for best results.”

7) BE KIND TO YOUR GUT: Treat it right and your gut can “have an extraordinary impact on your health,” says nutritionist Amanda Ursell.

The key is “feeding” the good bacteria that lurks in your digestive tract properly, with lots of fibrous wholegrains, fruit such as apples and figs, and veggies such as spinach.

“After they ‘eat’ the fibre, they produce compounds that trigger chain reactions, helping to boost mood and the immune system, control appetite and lower bad cholesterol.

Make every mouthful count and switch from refined and processed foods to wholegrain bread, cereals, pasta and rice, plus get your five-a-day to help improve your health.”

8) DON'T FORGET THE PILL: Even if your periods are irregular, you still need contraception.

“Many women will get perimenopausal symptoms in their early 40s, stop taking contraception, and some will get pregnant,” explains Dr Kaye.

“If you go through the menopause before the age of 50, you should use contraception for a further two years. If you go through it post-50, use contraception for a further year. After 55, you can stop.

"We used to say that women over 35 should swap from the combined pill, but it’s fine to continue if you have no other risk factors for blood clots, such as obesity or smoking. There are loads of other options for over-40s, too, such as the Mirena coil.”

9) CHECK YOUR BOOBS: Research by Breast Cancer Now found that almost half of women in the UK do not check their breasts regularly for signs of cancer and, worryingly, one in 10 have never checked.

“Around 10,000 women under 50 are diagnosed every year in the UK, so it’s important that all women make checking their breasts – at least once a month – a habit of a lifetime,” says Manveet Basra, head of public health and wellbeing at the charity.

“The sooner breast cancer is found, the more successful treatment is likely to be. Checking is quick, easy and there’s no special technique.

"Just get to know your breasts and what’s normal for you so you can spot any new or unusual changes.”

  • Get a free NHS Health Check – like a body MOT – when you reach 40. Call your GP to book!

Source: *Pelviva Dr Martin Kinsella (, Dr Shirin Lakhani (

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